Last updated: Thursday, March 23, 2017
How Has Vietnamese Tra Fish Been Discredited?Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Using pictures deliberately staged and intentionally recorded, competitors of Vietnamese tra fish have deceived the public and harmed Vietnamese farmers. Therefore, experts and tra fish companies have pressed the urgent need for specific measures to promote the honest image of true tra fish of Vietnam through mainstream media channels in Europe.
The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) recently sent a dispatch to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on reportage purposely disgracing Vietnamese catfish on Spanish Cuatro TV.
VASEP said the broadcast "El Punto de Mira" programme on Cuatro TV, a Spanish commercial television channel, was not true and intentionally tarnished the image of Vietnamese tra fish, or pangasius, farmed on the Mekong River.
The programme was started with a short introductory scene video aired at 11:30 a.m. on January 5, 2017 in Spanish language, temporarily translated as “Do you know why tra fish is so cheap? Do you think we will not know? But, we finally find out the truth. This is a new popular species in the market.” The next was a two minute and twenty second long footage aired on January 10, 2017, screening more misinformation about Vietnamese catfish.
Notably, according to VASEP, the footage was recorded on purpose and with a pre-arranged plot at a farm that raised pangasius conchophilus, not pangasius, in cages. Moreover, the image captured from a few farms cannot represent the entire catfish industry of Vietnam, but its deliberate exaggeration has concerned and confused consumers about Vietnamese pangasius industry.
The real purpose of the reporting was further revealed after this media firm used deliberately staged scenes of tra fish farming in Vietnam to compare with fish farming in Spain in a bid to draw a conclusion that fish farming in Spain is better.
In addition, it also aired an investigation in tra fish distribution and consumption in Spain, telling that some sellers quoted other fish but replaced with tra fish to earn more money.
The reportage was aired with the panoramic news programme that focused on economic and social affair investigations. The reportage was introduced by reporter Ricardo Pardo from Cuatro TV, owned by Telecinco Group, who directly went to tra fish farming facilities in the Mekong Delta.
Especially, he had a video interview with an official from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) Vietnam. The interviewee gave incorrect information about hygiene, water quality and fish products in Mekong River and Vietnamese tra fish products, thus making more damage to the reputation of tra fish.
The ultimate aim of the programme was to direct viewers to think that tra fish farmed in Vietnam was cheaper because of rampant and uncontrolled farming practices. Specifically, farmers used non-guaranteed feeds made from dead fish, which was cheap and low-quality. Tra fish was easily and cheaply shipped to Spain. Thus, the reportage recommended consumers not eat more than twice a month.
According to VASEP, following this report, some European retailers vowed to stop selling tra fish at their stores even though the European Union (EU) assured that eating the fish has no harm to health.
According to another source, some schools in Spain also refused to use Vietnamese tra fish.
Worryingly, the negative perception of tra fish still exists although the tra fish farming industry has developed professionally and the fish quality is certified by many international certification organisations.
Then, many international quality and environment certification bodies such as BAP and ASC also voiced disapproval of this. Specifically, on February 15, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) published a press release to criticise the misinformation after some European retailers decided to stop selling the Vietnamese catfish. The agency said tra fish raised after ASC standards in Vietnam is safe for consumers.
“With all ASC standards, no antibiotics in the antibiotics list of the World Health Organisation that cause harm to human health are used in fish farms," ASC stated.
The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) also voiced against this, stressing that, based on scientific criteria, independent and rigorous inspections, certified tra fish is a safe and responsible choice for consumers. Consumers can be assured of choosing fish. Vietnam now has a lot of fish-farming facilities that achieved international certifications such PAD on sustainable pangasius farming from the US and ASC from the European Union.
“For its part, VASEP sent a letter protesting false information published by the Spanish television and demonstrating progress and safety in all pangasius farming activities in Vietnam,” VASEP said.
VASEP also suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have timely directions to limit negative effects of footage on tra fish consumption in Europe in particular and the world in general. It also necessarily urged localities to review and settle shortcomings to avoid similar occurrences.
On the enterprise side, many agreed on specific measures to promote the true image of Vietnamese tra fish to be aired on mainstream media channels in other countries to assure European consumers of prestigious, quality-guaranteed tra fish products because the Vietnamese catfish is different and more valuable than similar products in many countries, including higher nutrition content, more delicious taste, no horizontal bone and affordable price. But, the weakest point of the Vietnamese catfish industry is promoting and building its image, and this is exploited by rivals to discredit it and impact the confidence of EU consumers.